Footloose and Fancy Embiid

EmbiidFor those of you in NBA keeper leagues who have been eliminated from your playoffs, it’s the perfect time to grab Joel Embiid as your consolation prize. After a single season at Kansas, Embiid was drafted 3rd overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. 2 years worth of foot complications later and Joel has become somewhat of a forgotten man… at least if you’re lucky, anyway. Embiid has yet to play a single game in the NBA and in most leagues he’s been dropped and left for dead. However, Embiid recently returned from a second trip to the Aspetar facility, an orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital in Qatar, where he endured a very detailed and thorough rehabilitation program. According to coach Brett Brown via CSNPhilly.com, the visit had as much to do with lifestyle as it did basketball:

“It was sort of a smorgasbord of everything you would think,” Brown said. “From diet assessment, really planning and talking about food and his diet, the number of meals and portion sizes … things to do with his foot as far as bone density and massage therapy and expected soreness from time-to-time … education on his sleep habits, his sleep patterns. On-court work with skill development … forming a simple but skilled package environment on an actual court.”

“Leaving that and going into the weight room, continuing to develop his body. Doing things with just normal plyometrics and stretching so that the flexibility comes back in because he hasn’t done too much in a few years. It’s not like you’re dealing with a conditioned athlete — he hasn’t done a lot in the past few years so we’re responsible in how we deliver him to those movement aspects of playing basketball again. … It’s very holistic, very smorgasbord-like, all over the place, all designed to his health.”

The 7 footer returned looking very nimble, while also displaying a very sweet and accurate stroke. The video below shows Embiid during a 9 minute pregame workout just 12 days before his 22nd birthday on March 4th before the 76ers played the Miami Heat. If you want to skip ahead, I’ll save you the trouble and let you know that he sinks about 80 to 90% of his shots, including an overwhelming majority of his around-the-horn 3 point attempts. Of course there are no defenders in this workout, but it’s impressive to see the big man displaying mobility and such a soft touch nonetheless. Rumblings out of Philly are that Jahlil Okafor will be traded to open the door for Embiid now that he’s creeping his way back to full health. If he’s available on your keeper league waiver wire, it’s time to snatch him up as your consolation prize. If he looks this good now, imagine how he’ll look on your squad in October.

 

~Jamie Capria

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The Yankee Empire Strikes Back

YankeesA lot of commotion has been made about the Yankees lack of moves over the past 2 off seasons. Yankee haters are loving what they surmise as their downfall, while Yankee die hards are wishing The Boss was still alive to throw his money around and rope in all the big name free agents. There’s a certain irony in Yankee haters trashing the Yankees for their years of free spending, and now trashing them for not spending. There’s also a certain irony in the Yankee faithful crying for the spending when the spending didn’t work. The Yankee revival tour that began in the mid 90’s and became the most memorable modern day dynasty in the sport wasn’t built on spending, it was built from within. The heart and soul of the team were homegrown names like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams. With that up and coming 5-man core, the Yankees didn’t have to go out and buy the biggest names on the market. They simply added less prestigious, yet quality pieces to the mix such as Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Scott Brosius. They also filled holes with role players like Darryl Strawberry, Tim Raines, David Justice and Jeff Nelson. This winning formula was put together by Gene Michael in the wake of George Steinbrenner’s suspension, and resulted in a World Series appearance in 6 out of 8 seasons between 1996 and 2003, peaking with 4 out of 5 championships between 1996 and 2000.

Clearly, none of it would’ve ever taken place without those 5 homegrowns… Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada and Bernie Williams. The Yankees spent years after that historically successful run trying to recapture their glory with high priced spending. There was only one problem… it didn’t work. In the 12 years that it’s been since their 8 year run ended in 2003, the Yankees have appeared in only 1 World Series. So why now? Why is everyone clamoring about their lack of spending now? Shouldn’t it be clear by now that building from within was the catalyst for their success, and that a return to free spending is what sent them spiraling out of control once again?

Let’s fast forward two decades from the time those 5 homegrowns who sparked the Yankee revival tour in the mid 90’s. Yes, that’s right folks, step right up and take a look at the 5 new homegrowns who have the potential to spark another Yankee revival.

SeverinoLuis Severino – SP: Don’t let his wiry 6 foot 195 pound frame fool you, this kid can hurl. Prior to 2015, MLB.com had him ranked as the 23rd overall prospect, and he easily could’ve been higher considering his stellar minor league numbers. In 320 minor league innings, he posted a 2.30 ERA, 1.026 WHIP and a 323/81 K/BB ratio. He made his Yankee debut in 2015 and didn’t disappoint with a 2.89 ERA while striking out 56 batters in 62 innings. Manager Joe Girardi even likened his poise to that of Greg Maddux. Wow, high praise.

 

BirdGreg Bird – 1B: Bird is a big lefty with a sweet swing. Think John Olerud with more power. In 1246 minor league at bats, he managed to hit .282 with 48 HRs and 192 RBIs. He also exhibited a great eye with 223 walks. Even more impressive than his minor league numbers were his results when called up to the Yankees in 2015 to replace the injured Mark Teixeira. He looked extremely comfortable at the plate, and banged out 11 HRs in only 157 at bats, a few of the heroic variety. A short right field home porch along with his calm demeanor at the plate is a recipe for a lot of future success in pinstripes. Unfortunately, a labrum tear will force him off the field for the remainder of 2016, but he’ll be a full go come 2017.

 

JudgeAaron Judge – OF: A beast of a physical specimen, Judge is listed at 6’7 275. Baseball Prospectus has him ranked 49th among all prospects. Judge projects to become a big power bat in the middle of the Yankee lineup. he finished low A ball in 2014 with a .308 batting average, along with 17 dingers and 78 ribs in 467 at bats. The following year, which was divided between AA and AAA, saw his batting average dip to .255 against better pitching, but he maintained his impressive power with 20 HRs and 72 RBIs in 478 at bats. He’s likely to spend 2016 fine tuning his swing in the minors, but he’s expected to be ready to start belting jacks on the big stage in 2017.

 

SanchezGary Sanchez – C: Sanchez is currently the front runner to back up Brian McCann in 2016. Baseball Prospectus has had him ranked as high as the 29th overall prospect, and at 6’2 230, his large frame has also shown impressive power in the minors. In 2157 minor league at bats, Sanchez blasted 89 home runs, and a whopping 378 RBIs while hitting .274. His 498/195 K/BB ratio needs some work, but the future looks bright behind the plate for the Yankees.

 

MateoJorge Mateo – SS: I feel the need for speed. Mateo is just 20 years old, but he’s already turning heads with his base running prowess. Mateo stole a ridiculous 82 bases in only 449 low A at bats in 2015. He’s managed an insane 146 steals in only 820 at bats so far in the minors. He’s still got some work to do on his plate discipline before he sees the majors, but he’s destined to be tearing up major league base paths, possibly as early as late 2017 or early 2018.

 

The new 5 homegrowns don’t look too shabby, do they? Maybe this explains why the Yankees refused to make a big splash on the trade market when many big name aging veterans were available. It would have come at the cost of these 5 coveted blue chippers, as nearly every team in the league has asked about one or all of them. The same way the Yankees wouldn’t have put together their dynasty without Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, and Williams, they were also smart enough not to let go of Severino, Bird, Judge, Sanchez, and Mateo.

Just as the original core needed key pieces around them, this group will as well. So what do the Yankees have up their sleeve? Well, let’s start with what’s already in place. The Yankees have young players like Sterlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Hicks who all have an opportunity to develop into key cogs. The Yankees also have large expiring contracts which will result in a LOT of freed up money. CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brett Gardner are all on large expiring contracts. So if you look at the 2017-2018 seasons in advance, you not only see a big group of blue chip homegrowns all hitting the scene at the same time, but they’ll also have a large boatload of extra money laying around to make the type of splash they need to build around them. Enter: Bryce Harper.

Bryce

The above photo was taken from Harper’s Instagram feed. Bryce spent his childhood days as a huge Yankee fan, and all signs point to him joining his beloved Yanks after the 2018 season. Everyone knows his agent Scott Boras is a shark, and Bryce is already projected to become the first 400 million dollar player once his free agency hits. As mentioned, they’ll certainly have the money to spend, along with a fine group of young talent to put around him. A lot can still change, but the Yankees current payroll obligations look something like this:

2015: 217 mil

2016: 183 mil

2017: 120 mil

2018: 93 mil

2019: 45 mil

So what does this tell us? It tells us that not only will the Yankees have a ridiculous amount of money to throw at Bryce Harper, quite possibly even challenging the 500 mil mark with a 10+ year contract… but also a ridiculous amount of money to throw at whatever other key players they’ll need to fill holes by then. Harper will only be 26 years old when he hits free agency, and he’d be surrounded by extremely young talent in New York. The stage would be set for another potential Yankee revival tour that could very well wind up producing another dynasty. Not convinced? Was it the potential dynasty part that was a little too much? Ok, well then how about we take a look at the top 30 international prospects:

International Prospects

A strange thing happens when I look at this list. I can’t help but notice that one third of all the top international prospects belong to the Yankees. That’s right, 10 out of the list of 30 are all Yankees. Ok, so I’ll concede that this is Baseball America’s 2014 list, so things can change a little from source to source, but I think you get the idea… the Yankees are STACKED with young talent. Of course, they’ll be paying some hefty fines for going over the spending limit on international players, but what’s a little fine money to unfairly stack the deck heavily in your favor? It’s not like we haven’t already established that they’ll have plenty of extra cash laying around, right? You see, all these cries about how the Yankees weren’t making any moves or spending any money were incomplete sentences. People forgot to add the “on the major league level” and “yet” to the end of their sentences. Money was being spent, it was just being spent on international players, fines, and future record contracts.

I regret to inform all the Yankee haters that news of their demise has been grossly exaggerated and premature. They’re currently filming a new picture that is due to hit the box office in 2019 entitled The Yankee Empire Strikes Back, and once it hits the big screen it’s expected to remain in theaters for at least another decade.

~Jamie Capria

Bad Boob

Tara SparksMy cancer has a name. It’s stupid fucking asshole, or in medical terms it’s invasive ductile cancer.

I know it’s the most common.
I know it’s treatable, with little to no occurrence.
I know I will kick those five tumors asses so hard.

I know my husband and family are holding my hand the entire journey. Surgery will be before Christmas as the tumors are growing rapidly, per biopsy results. Radiation will follow as well as 5-10 years of tamoxifen & possible chemo.

I know I have a huge support with all you lovely, lovely fuckers, whom I adore immensely.

Thanks to all who’ve messaged, called, texted & sent cards. 💜

I’m accepting positive vibes, juju, candle ceremonies, laugher, prayers, food, monetary support, your love and above all support.

Peace and love. My friends. Be kind.
☠ xoxo ☠

‪#‎fuckcancer‬ ‪#‎badboob‬

~Tara Sparks

To donate to the Sparks family, please visit the Plumfund Hardship Page.

The Good, The Bad, and The Incomplete

It has long been established that in order to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, you need a quality signal caller. Even when teams have been an exception to that rule and won with lesser talent under center while relying on their defense, they quickly faded out and returned to irrelevancy thereafter. Take, for example, Trent Dilfer and the Baltimore Ravens. He stepped in for an injured Tony Banks and went 7-1 to “guide” the Ravens to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. He then went 12 for 26 for 153 yards in the Super Bowl and proceeded to become the only quarterback in NFL history to “win” a Super Bowl and get immediately cut. It took the Ravens 12 years to get back to the Super Bowl, and those 12 years saw the likes of Elvis Grbac, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Anthony Wright, and Kyle Boller all stinking up the field and repeatedly undermining one of the best defenses in NFL history.

Year in and year out NFL team owners, GMs, coaches, and scouts scour the college ranks hoping to find their future quarterback. That elusive gem they can build their franchise around while watching him develop into a Super Bowl-caliber field general. It’s been said in recent years that the search is becoming more and more difficult, as if there’s a shortage of talent at the quarterback position. I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that we no longer develop quarterbacks on an NFL sideline, practice field, and film room, and rather choose to throw them directly into the frying pan and expect immediate results. It’s a win now league, so coaches don’t have the luxury of waiting for quarterbacks to develop anymore, otherwise they find themselves quickly unemployed.

With that being said, there are currently 8 relevant quarterbacks under the age of 25 in the NFL. This article takes a look at those 8 quarterbacks, youngest to oldest, and grades both their current progress, as well as their projected/potential progress.

Jameis Winston

Winston was drafted with the first overall pick of of the 2015 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has the distinction of being the youngest starting quarterback in the NFL, and the Buccaneers clearly think he has what it takes to eventually develop into a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.

The Good: Winston plays with a high level of confidence, passion, fire, and determination. As a result, he’s not afraid to take chances downfield and has that elusive “play making” ability. Even with limited speed and mobility, he’s still a threat to extend plays and/or take off and gain positive yardage at any time. (As shown by his numerous plays out of the pocket and 4 rushing TDs already this season.) Doug Martin has helped his development by providing a solid ground game to take the pressure off him, and pass-catching back Charles Sims has given him dump down options when his initial reads are covered. He’s had good weapons to work with in Mike Evans and Vince Jackson, who are both big 6’5 targets with reliable hands downfield. His knock coming out of college was his propensity to turn the ball over, but aside from a disastrous 4 pick game at the hands of the undefeated Carolina Panthers defense, he’s surprised many with his ability to protect the football. (Only 4 games out of 10 with a pick, and only 2 with multiple picks… both within his first 4 career starts.) His surrounding cast is arguably the best amongst this list, and has put him in a great position to succeed, but his skill set has taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to him as he’s managed to average an impressive 240 yards per game, 7.7 yards per attempt, and an 86.5 passer rating.

The Bad: Winston’s accuracy still needs development as his completion percentage sits at a less-than-desirable 58%. He also holds onto the ball too long, as evidenced by his 17 sacks in 10 games. (Albeit 7 in his first two starts, so he’s shown progress in that regard too.) He’s also fumbled 5 times in 10 games, so although the picks are down, he still needs to work on protecting the ball.

Current Grade: B+ For his current NFL resume, Winston is a solid B+. He’s developed a lot quicker than expected, his questionable maturity hasn’t been an issue, he’s kept the interceptions in reasonable check, and he’s provided the Bucs with a much needed competitive spark.

Projected/Potential Grade: A With his skill set and competitive fire, Winston projects to be an eventual Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. Whether or not the Bucs can turn things around and provide him enough surrounding support to get him there is still in question, but Winston shouldn’t be the reason if they never reach the promised land during his tenure.

 

Marcus Mariota

Mariota, just 3 months older than Winston, was taken just behind him as the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. Even with potential future-starter Zach Mettenberger on the roster, the Titans couldn’t pass on such a rare quarterback talent.

The Good: Mariota has the ultra-rare ability of being a pocket passer who is also very mobile and highly skilled at making plays out of the pocket, especially accurate throws on the run. With easily the worst surrounding cast on this list, Mariota has impressed with 253 yards per game, a list topping 7.8 yards per attempt, a list topping 65% completion percentage, and an impressive 96 passer rating. He’s also very good at protecting the football. In his senior season at Oregon, he tallied a remarkable 57 touchdowns (42 passing, 15 rushing) against only 4 interceptions. This was no fluke either, as in his previous two seasons he notched 40 combined tds to 4 picks, and 37 tds to 6 picks respectively. He’s got a cannon arm, pinpoint accuracy, and makes great decisions with the football, particularly when a play breaks down.

The Bad: Mariota played in a stretch offense throughout college, so he’s still adjusting to taking the ball under center as a drop back passer. This has actually resulted in more turnovers than usual in the early going, as he has 6 interceptions and 7 fumbles (4 lost). His quarterback IQ and long history of protecting the ball leans towards him picking up the speed of the NFL game and added pressure of a 3 and 5 step drop, and he’s already shown recent progress in protecting the ball better, but up until now there have been a few bumps in the road learning to be a drop back passer.

Current Grade: B+ Aside from the uncharacteristic ball control mishaps, which still aren’t all that bad for a rookie, Mariota has been superb on a VERY bad team. He’s done more with less than any quarterback on the short side of 25 in the league.

Projected/Potential Grade: A+ Mariota has the football intelligence and rare skill set to not only be a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, but to also be one of the elite quarterbacks of his generation. Unfortunately, the Titans are a VERY bad football team, so his career may suffer a Marino-like fate… at least for the foreseeable future.

 

Johnny Manziel

Boyziel (I refuse to call him a man) is a year older than Winston & Mariota and in his 2nd season after being drafted 22nd overall out of Texas A&M by the Cleveland Browns.

The Good: Boyziel has a strong arm, lively legs, and plays with a great deal of confidence, regardless of the results/outcome. Unfortunately, up until this point in his NFL career, there isn’t much more I can fill in the “good” section with.

The Bad: Well documented, Boyziel’s main Achilles’ heel is his lack of maturity and professionalism. Last year he looked completely lost under center as it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t paying much attention to the playbook or in the film room, if any at all. He repeatedly botched plays, even turning to the wrong side to hand off on simple running plays. Boyziel entered rehab and took on a more focused approach headed into this season, and even looked pretty good in spot duty filling in for McCown. One problem… he couldn’t stay away from the booze. He was let off the hook when they ruled an argument with his girlfriend didn’t violate the NFL Personal Conduct code, but he also admitted to police that he had been drinking before the altercation. Upon being named the starter so the Browns could see what they had in him during the bye week of a lost season, Boyziel was caught on tape drinking and partying, and was promptly demoted to third string. He couldn’t even lay off the drinking long enough to start 1 game after being named the starter. How many times opportunity will knock for this kid remains to be seen. With the recent demotion, the Browns could just be sending another message to their troubled investment, or this could easily be the beginning to the end of his career in Cleveland if they’ve finally grown tired of his antics. It’s worth mentioning that the Browns signed him to a 4-year 8.2 million dollar contract last year, in which 6.7 million of that was guaranteed. There’s not a lot of incentive to quit screwing around if you know your employer has to pay you no matter what… so the Browns deserve some of the blame in this ongoing circus. Even if Boyziel straightens out and the Browns give him yet another chance, Boyziel’s reliability will certainly be a concern moving forward, as will his lack of size. For every Doug Flutie and Russell Wilson, there are hundreds of undersized quarterbacks who aren’t capable of consistent NFL success.

Current Grade: I I’ll be generous and give him an incomplete grade, based on the fact that he hasn’t been on the field long enough to be given a fair playing grade. If I were to factor in that the main reason why he hasn’t seen the field is his own fault/immaturity, then obviously his grade would be an F. (And that’s only because there’s no such thing as a G, H, or I.)

Projected/Potential Grade: D- Boyziel has enough talent and confidence to become a serviceable quarterback, however, I doubt it will ever get to a point where his upside is worth the perpetual baggage that comes with it. We’re not talking about slam dunk talent here, so at some point the Browns and the rest of the league will realize that they’d be enduring an awful large and long lasting headache for a maybe. He’s already been given more chances than most maybes ever receive.

 
Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater is only a month older than Boyziel, and yet the difference in maturity spans galaxies. Teddy is in his 2nd season after being drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Good: Bridgewater is a solid game manager with excellent accuracy. Midway through his 2nd campaign he’s consistently matched his stellar 64% completion rate of his rookie season. With Adrian Peterson on the roster, he’s not asked to take a lot of chances, but when he does decide to put the ball in the air he makes good decisions. He averages a modest 210 yards per game, but it comes at a decent 7.2 yards per attempt. The emergence of rookie Stefon Diggs gives him a legitimate deep threat, but Bridgewater’s success lies in allowing Peterson to control the tempo of the game while using his heady play to keep the turnovers down. As a result he’s thrown only 8 tds in 10 games, but more importantly, he’s only thrown 6 picks over that span as well, resulting in a respectable 86 passer rating.

The Bad: Bridgewater holds the ball too long in the pocket. He’s been sacked a whopping 30 times in 10 games. The bright side is he doesn’t make ill-advised throws under pressure, but he still needs to learn to throw the ball away rather than taking the sack, as he’s lost over 200 yards in sacks in 10 games. (Three games of over 48 yards lost in sacks.)

Current Grade: B- Bridgewater gets a B- based on his ability to manage the game and team in front of him. He’s well aware that Peterson and the running game is the key to the Vikings success, so he doesn’t try to do too much and get himself into trouble. He extends plays with his decent footwork, but that also leads to far too many sacks as he needs to learn to throw the ball away more when there’s nothing there.

Projected/Potential Grade: B Bridgewater projects to be a capable quarterback. He’s not going to carry a team to a Super Bowl, but with the right surrounding cast, he’s not going to cost the Vikings a Super Bowl appearance either. If the Vikings are ever good enough on both sides of the ball to get them there, Bridgewater is a capable, albeit non-spectacular signal caller. The problem is, Peterson isn’t getting any younger and the Vikings D is anything but formidable, so the likelihood of the Vikings getting to the Super Bowl any time soon is a bit of a stretch.

 
Blake Bortles

Bortles comes in as the 5th youngest starting quarterback in the league after being drafted out of Central Florida with the 3rd overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.

The Good: At 6’5 245, Bortles is built almost identically to Big Ben. Much like Ben, he’s also deceptively mobile for a quarterback of his size. The emergence of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns give him legit weapons downfield and he’s taken full advantage by topping this list with an average of 262 yards per game. He’s not afraid to take chances downfield, and he’s reaped the rewards by throwing 20 tds in 10 games.

The Bad: Accuracy and ball control leave a lot to be desired with Bortles. He’s currently sitting at a meager 56% completion percentage, and he has 18 combined picks/fumbles in 10 games. He’s only had 1 game all year where he didn’t throw the ball to the other team. He also suffers from the same Achilles’ heel as Bridgewater… he lacks an internal clock and holds the ball too long. Bortles has been sacked an astronomical 32 times in 10 games. Throw it away, Blake, throw it away. He’s fumbled in 5 of his 10 games, and only managed a 60% or higher completion percentage in 3 of 10.

Current Grade: C+ The yardage totals are nice, but Blake is living in Allentown (Hurns and Robinson), so yardage totals are to be expected. He’s thrown at least 1 TD in every game this year, but his lack of ball protection and propensity for getting sacked are drive killers.

Projected/Potential Grade: B- I’m going to give Blake a B- based on pure speculation. As a guy who has started only 24 NFL games, I’m going to assume that he develops into a quarterback who takes better care of the ball. With TJ Yeldon looking as though he’ll provide a nice complimentary rushing attack, Bortles might settle in and realize he doesn’t have to be spectacular on every play for the Jaguars to be successful. As a result, he may cut down on the turnovers and sacks, but even with that as a possibility, Blake and the Jaguars are still galaxies away from ever sniffing a Super Bowl.

 

Derek Carr

At age 24, Derek Carr is midway through his 2nd season after being drafted out of Fresno State by the Oakland Raiders in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft.

The Good: For anyone reading this who still claims that it’s not his lack of talent, but his strong faith that keeps Tim Tebow out of a starting job in the NFL… meet devout Christian, Derek Carr. Carr arguably has the best weapons to work with of any quarterback on this list with Michael Crabtree, rookie phenom Amari Cooper, and physical freak Latavius Murray. However, Carr isn’t short on talent himself. Carr averages a robust 256 yards per game, and if not for an opening day 61-yard clunker, he’d easily top this list in average yards per game. Carr has quietly performed at an extremely high level with 7.5 yards per attempt, a 63% completion rate, a 99 passer rating, and a 21/6 TD/INT ratio. You rarely hear his name mentioned with the likes of Winston, Mariota, Bridgewater and Bortles, yet statistically he has blown the quarterbacks on this list away this year. He’s not very mobile, yet he makes great decisions with the football, as evidenced by only 11 sacks in 10 games despite a less than stellar offensive line. In 5 of his 10 games this year, he’s topped 300 yards passing. Quite simply put, he’s the most underrated quarterback in the league.

The Bad: There isn’t a lot of bad to mention with Carr. In his rookie season he threw 12 picks and fumbled 10 times, losing 4 of them. However, he’s completely turned that deficiency around this year and protected the ball as well as most of the elite quarterbacks in the league. (Only 6 picks and 2 lost fumbles to date.) As mentioned, he’s not the most mobile guy, but that’s hard to label a bad thing when he’s producing the way he is out of the pocket while also not taking many sacks.

Current Grade: A Statistically, Carr’s sophomore season in the NFL ranks right up there with some of the best 2nd year stats of any quarterback the league has ever seen, and surpasses the 2nd year statistics of most of the all time greats. He’s quietly putting together one hell of a season and has the Raiders suddenly more relevant than they’ve been in 13 years since they lost Super Bowl XXXVII. Again, he has the luxury of the best weapons a young quarterback could ever hope for, but he still has to get them the ball, and he’s done a superb job of it.

Projected/Potential Grade: A With his ball protection, ability to throw it accurately downfield, and calmness in the pocket, it’s almost impossible not to take him seriously. If the Raiders can actually put an adequate defense on the field during his, Cooper, Crabtree and Murray’s tenure together… it’s not out of the realm that they’ll actually be making a run at the Lombardi some time within the next 5 years.

 

Brock Osweiler

Osweiler, who just turned 25, was chosen in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft shortly after the Peyton Manning signing. Despite rumors that Elway tried to trade him in the offseason, Elway adamantly refutes those rumors and sticks to his story that the plan all along was for him to become the heir apparent to the Peyton throne.

The Good: Well, we don’t exactly have much to go on here. In his junior year at Arizona State, the only year he started, Osweiler put up a ridiculous 4 thousand yards, 26 tds, 63% completion rate, and outstanding 140 passer rating. However, as the saying goes, that was on Saturdays. Upon replacing Peyton in spot duty, he’s performed admirably, but they also (wisely) dumbed down the offense for him. He hasn’t been asked to do much, and his appearances have mostly consisted of safe passes and dump offs, while allowing the Denver defense to control the game. With such a limited sample size, the jury is still out on his strengths and weaknesses.

The Bad: He’s listed anywhere between 6’7 and 6’8, and there’s a reason there haven’t been many tall quarterbacks in the league who have had any kind of sustained success. Long body = larger exposed rib cage area. Historically, tall quarterbacks don’t last very long because at that height it’s difficult to protect their bodies. One solid hit to the midsection and suddenly you’re laying in a hospital bed with cracked ribs. He’s also very inexperienced, yet he’s had plenty of time to compensate for that by developing on the sidelines, so again, the jury is still out on his strengths and weaknesses.

Current Grade: I Incomplete is a no-brainer here. We just haven’t seen enough of him at the NFL level to even know his strengths and weaknesses, no less grade his play fairly.

Projected/Potential Grade: ? If I were to try to make an accurate prediction on Osweiler, I might as well bend over (a la Jim Carrey) and move my butt cheeks while I’m talking. There just isn’t enough to go on, so what the future holds for Osweiler is nothing short of a crap shoot at this point. (Horrible pun intended.)

 

Geno Smith

Geno makes this list by default, considering he’s 25 and the Jets might be forced to let him try his hand again in 2016. He was drafted in the 2nd round out of West Virginia in 2013, and it’s already been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for him, to say the least.

The Good: This section is a little difficult with Geno, because there’s not really one thing he does particularly well. I mean, he has an arm and two legs, so that’s a plus… he just hasn’t done much with them up until this point. He has above average mobility, and somehow seems to maintain confidence in himself, but he’s yet to show any area of significant strength.

The Bad: He’s Geno Smith.

Current Grade: D He’s shown the occasional flashes of brilliance, but that’d be like saying a hurricane showed signs of usefulness because it blew all the unraked leaves out of your yard.

Projected/Potential Grade: F The Jets have a better chance of signing Tom Brady when his current contract expires than ever making it to the Super Bowl with Geno under center.

~Jamie Capria

Edit: It was brought to my attention that RG3 is a few months shy of his 26th birthday, however, he’s not included in this list because there are no signs that he’ll have any chance at starting in the near future, if ever again at all. Sadly, Geno Smith has a better chance of starting for the Jets in 2016 than RG3 has of starting anywhere, especially not in Washington where Jay Gruden would rather start a cardboard cutout than give in to RG3.

F#ck Cancer

Heather SnowI had a last minute shoot cancellation on a Sunday in Denver recently, and because of the foliage and quality of light this time of year, I really wanted to be photographing SOMEONE.  It seemed like a crime not to be.. it’s just so pretty outside right now.  So I put out a post on Facebook:  Sexy Denver woman needed.  Let’s make some art.  (It was worded a little better than that, but you get my drift.)  I got so many responses that it was impossible to choose.  I wanted to photograph all of these women.  I don’t do well when given too many choices of anything.  Picking out a restaurant or a meal that I want takes FOREVER.  SO needless to say, by Friday evening, I was still going back and forth, but I had finally decided to go with the first person that responded.  It took the choice out of my hands.  That’s when I received a Facebook message from Emily.  To sum it up (poorly), it said: You should take pictures of Snow (aka Heather Snow).  She doesn’t know that I’m writing you this..As you know, she has Leukemia…I can’t think of anything sexier or stronger than Snow and her drip stand, Edward.  

AND.. Decision made!

Heather and I have been making photos together for several years now.  She is a super funny comedian & writer (read her blog!).  She’s six feet tall, and since her last name is SNOW, we took some promo photos of her as the Abominable Snow-woman a couple of years ago, as well as many different headshots over the years.  We always have such a great time shooting together–I’m a big fan.  She learned recently that she has Leukemia (it’s the craziest story.. seriously, read her blog), and has been in the hospital for the last month.  When I say she’s been in the hospital, I mean, she couldn’t leave.  Ever.  Even leaving her room was a huge pain (because her immune system was so fragile).  So, no enjoying the amazing foliage and light I spoke of earlier.  To sum things up (poorly again–for real, go read her blog..right now even..it’s so much better), She went through chemo treatments, lost her hair (after trying out a couple of awesome short haircuts), had a major drug allergy (that they couldn’t figure out) which produced a rash over all of her skin, found a bone marrow donor, and got her blood cell count back up enough so that she could be released from the hospital for a short time.  Which brings us to the present.  She is out in the world right now, trying to stay away from germs, and in official remission, which is awesome, because it means that she should be able to have her bone marrow transplant soon.  After which, she will be in the hospital again for another month.

Heather Snow 2When I saw Heather for these photos, she was two days away from being released from the hospital.  She still seemed blown away by all of it.  How randomly it came, how supportive people have been, how some pieces have fallen into place, how difficult it has been.  Her room was filled with cards and artwork, and fake flowers (she can’t have real ones due to GERMS/pollen, etc).  One of the nurses said that it is the most decorated room she has ever seen in that hospital.  A repeat phrase I kept seeing around the room was “Fuck Cancer!”, which seems like a pretty great mantra to me.  Heather told me a lot about Leukemia, and how it turns people’s lives upside down.  How if this had happened to her 5 years ago, she would have been financially ruined.  How people lose their jobs and homes, or don’t get good donor matches, and so end up being hospitalized for much longer due to complications.  Or die.  She said that all that she has gone through is kind of a ‘best case scenario’ (good insurance coverage, family donor match, her body’s response to the treatments).  Which completely blows my mind, because of how awful it all sounds.  I can’t imagine it being worse for people.  She was honest, blunt, and real about her experience.  Which is what I’ve always admired about her.  No filter.

Thank you, Heather for being both vulnerable & strong, by allowing me to capture these images of you during this time.  I think they will serve as an inspiration to those of us watching, people going through it, and to you years from now when you look back at what you fought and survived through.  You are such a bad ass, even in the way you are fighting cancer.  And that is super sexy.  You rocked this shoot.  I hope you are getting to enjoy even just a little bit of the foliage before your transplant.  Fuck you, Cancer!

**Thank you, Averi Trevino for doing the makeup, and for Seddy Gomez & Heather Cameron for recommending her!

~Crystal Allen

To read more about Heather’s story, please visit: Sixfeetofleukemia.com

To donate to the Heather Snow Family Fund, please visit: Give Forward

Corned Beef and Cabbage in Guinness

Corned beef and Cabbage in Guinness3.5-4 pounds flat cut Corned Beef Brisket
1 bottle or can of Guinness Draught
1 medium Yellow Onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 teaspoon Ground Allspice
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 head Cabbage, cut into wedges, rinsed & drained
6 medium White Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 pound Carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Rinse the meat under cold water, and pat dry. This will help to remove some of the excess saltiness.

Heat a heavy stock pot over high heat with some oil and brown the meat well on all sides. Pour the beer into the stock pot and top it off with enough water to just cover the meat.

Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and pepper to the stock pot. Bring it to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for about 3 hours.

Add the carrots, then potatoes and then the cabbage wedges to the pot, in that order. Cover the pot again and continue cooking until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and the vegetables to large bowl, leaving the liquid in the stock pot. Over high heat, bring the cooking liquid to a boil,and cook until the amount of liquid is reduced by half.

After the meat has rested, slice it against the grain in strips about 1/4 thick. Serve with the vegetables and the sauce on the side.

~Robert Clement

Remember This Titan

Falcons Titans FootballIn last week’s article I dug deep into the crystal ball to recommend Redskins TE Derek Carrier. Carrier seemed destined to make me look like a fantasy Nostradamus when he caught a touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. However, aside from a desperation 2 point conversion attempt and a late 4th quarter 20 yard scamper up the sideline, Cousins never looked in his direction again. This was due in large part to Cousins’ inability to get through his progressions. Carrier was actually open all afternoon, but Cousins wasn’t able to find him. Carrier was still able to put up a 10+ point fantasy day, and there are still good signs of a significant breakout coming. Unsurprisingly, Jordan Reed will miss yet another game, which will give Carrier another opportunity to put himself on the fantasy map. This time, however, it will come after a week of game film where the coaching staff will have no choice but to see how often he was shaking his defenders and getting open. Something tells me he’ll have a few plays designed for him this week rather than relying on Cousins to go through his progressions in order to find him. So if you you took a shot on him last week, be happy with the 10+ fantasy points he garnered you, as that not only put him in the top 10 at his position, but it also put him ahead of guys like Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, and Jimmy Graham. I would actually expect an improvement upon that this weekend, as he should get targeted a lot more often after the coaching staff analyzed the game film this week.

With this week’s sleeper selection, I could’ve easily gone with Chiefs running back Charcandrick West, as he should be an extremely usueful pickup after Jamaal Charles blew out his knee. However, unless you live in a cave or this is your first time ever playing fantasy football, you were already well aware of West’s sudden value. Andy Reid loves to get his RBs heavily involved, so look for West to put up solid fantasy points for the remainder of the season. If he stumbles along the way, Knile Davis will be waiting in the wings to vulture up carries or scores. Another sneaky-sleeper play for this weekend could be Buffalo Bills running back Dan Herron. Karlos Williams is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol and will sit out, and Shady McCoy’s status is still uncertain. All indications are he’ll miss another game, which would leave the Bills with only Boobie Dixon and Herron as options. Dixon looks like a turtle running through peanut butter, so if you’re in one of those 1 week fantasy leagues, or you’re just looking for a bye week fill in this wek, Herron might be worth taking a gamble on as I would expect him to lead the Bills in touches.

If you were hoping for more of a long term sleeper and missed the boat on Charcandrick West, have no fear… I may have your answer. A forgotten man, Titans running back David Cobb is eligible to return to practice next week after being placed on the IR with a calf injury on September 6th. Cobb had impressed the coaching staff this past preseason with strong and explosive running, to the point where GM Ruston Webster mentioned him as a player who stood out in training camp, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt was on the verge of placing him atop the depth chart after an impressive 2nd preseason game vs the Atlanta Falcons. In his time on the IR, Bishop Sankey has failed to impress, recently added Terrance West has looked cuttable, and rookie Antonio Andrews has struggled with only 3.1 yards per carry. RB/WR Dexter McCluster has played well, but at 5’8 170, he’s nothing more than a gadget/change of pace back. This leaves the door wide open for Cobb upon his return. Cobb was a workhorse BEAST in his senior year at Minnesota, carrying the ball over 300 times for a Golden Gopher record 1626 yards. He also hit pay dirt 13 times, so he has a nose for the end zone and at 5’11 230 he has no trouble muscling his way in when it’s within sniffing distance. The Titans are in desperate need of a bell cow who can handle big carry totals effectively, and Cobb is well suited to be that guy for them.

If you’re looking for immediate fantasy miracles, he’s not your guy. He won’t be eligible to return until November 8th vs the Saints, and may need a game or two to kick it into full gear… but if you’re confident that your team will still be in the hunt by then, or you’re in a keeper league, he’s a sneaky 3-week stash right now. Reports of him being eligible to return to practice are starting to surface, so if you’re in a very competitive league it won’t be long before the light bulb goes off in your opponent’s heads and they beat you to the free agent/waiver wire to scoop him up. If you have roster room, beat the rush and scoop him up now. He could very well wind up a valuable TD hog over the second half of the season for the Titans.

~Jamie Capria